Each person has the power to influence others, even if he or she doesn’t realize it, by the way they act and the things they say. Social scientists call the phenomenon “social contagion." How can your organization use social contagion to its advantage?
Social Contagion Affects Our Health
Research by Nicholas A. Christakis indicates friends can influence up to 60% of one another’s habits. Furthermore, friends who are one step removed (i.e. friends of friends) still have a 20% power of influence on lifestyle choices and habits.
A company-wide CHAMPIONS program captures the idea of social contagion and builds it into the fundamental tenets of its wellness advocacy efforts, with the understanding that an individuals’ success can be influenced by our social networks and culture.
Spread Positive Behavior Change
A workplace CHAMPIONS program is a concerted effort to start and spread vital health habits through pre-existing networks. Knowing that colleagues have a huge influence over one another, a CHAMPIONS program calls on ordinary employees to voluntarily lead by example by publically practicing healthy habits and sharing their experiences with others. According to social contagion theory, they will likely influence their colleagues to adopt a similar health consciousness.
Who Should Be A CHAMPION?
A workplace CHAMPION is an employee who volunteers to lead by personal example, take a stand for the health of at least one other person, publically practice health habits and learn how one person’s example influences others to do the same. A wellness CHAMPION should ideally not be your organization’s CEO or HR leader. Anyone in an organization can step forward to share their inspirational stories and CHAMPION healthy lifestyle changes. Whether they have lost weight, achieved a fitness goal, quit smoking or are working toward these objectives, their behavior can motivate others. Ideal workplace CHAMPIONS are:
• They are visible within the company,
• They are well-liked,
• They are passionate about wellness,
• They understand the importance of their advocacy and the subsequent personal and business impact.
What do CHAMPIONS do?
Aside from sharing their personal successes and influencing their peers through social contagion, workplace CHAMPIONS should take an active role in promoting the organization’s wellness program. Workplace CHAMPIONS can:
• Choose and test programs for employee use
• Help co-workers understand the purpose behind programs
• Offer actionable instructions on how to participate
• Assist others in getting started on wellness habits
• Track and chart progress
• Praise and recognize people’s success
• Innovate new programs
• Organize health events
• Nominate new CHAMPIONS
• Solicit feedback to keep the offerings relevant and effective
A workplace CHAMPIONS program enlists leaders who inspire others to adopt healthier lifestyles; everyone benefits from a proactive on-site push for company-wide behavioral change. Inspired in part by social contagion theory, a CHAMPIONS program works with our ability to influence one another to affect positive change. Whether striving for improved nutrition, increased exercise or an overall mindfulness about health, a thoughtful CHAMPIONS program encourages employees to take their wellness goals seriously.